FCP X – from a unique perspective

Let’s all take a deep breath.

Relaxed?

On day 1, this isn’t a rant about how great or not so great FCP X is. I’m in a very unique position to be impartial. Gratefully and luckily, I work with virtually everything within the walls of Post. Thus, I’ve attacked the issue of FCP X and have decided to examine the ramifications to this creature with many heads we call workflow.

I think we all need to put these 3 truths on a sticky next to our palette monitor. I believe:

  1. The good of the many outweighs the good of the few (or one, if you like movie quotes)
  2. Post Production? We are the few. We are the exception to the rule. There are many more dad’s cutting together their kids t-ball highlights than editing a primetime television show or feature film.  That’s the rule.
  3. This is version 1.0. Learn to accept that.

Quite frankly, if you plan on pulling stuff in from your digital camera, doing an edit with some color and effects, then outputting a digital file, I think you’ll love FCP X. It’s sleek, it’s shiny, it’s all in one – no muss no fuss. In fact, jeebus, it flies. On a new 12 Core Mac Pro with a Quadro 4000, I had 6 streams of Canon 5D material playing PLUS a Cineform 3D file. All with a size change (PiP). 77% CPU utilization. All of this – unrendered. Not one dropped frame. 1 stream of 5D can cause FCP7 to choke. That’s bad-ass.

But for those who sit in a darkened edit bay with stale client snacks and mini cans of soda – brace for impact.

My world here in Hollyweird has been abuzz about the very simple topic “Is FCP X for Pros?” My friend Philip Hodgetts delved into that very point here. For this blog post however, I am referring to TV, Film, and more elaborate professional workflow’d productions.  Professionals whose workflows require more than a 1 stop shop.  Multi-disciplined workflows.  This blog post is for you.  I thus ask that when I use the term “Professional” with a capital “P”, you get the picture.  Capiche?

I’m usually forgiving when it comes to 1.0 releases.  As a good friend reminded me, if software releases were delayed until everything got weaseled in, well, it would never make it to market (plus, you need to have something to charge for later). However, there are glaring omissions.  Either by choice or by time constraints, they are definitely wrapped up around interoperability. Aside from it’s own sandbox of Motion and Compressor, FCP X is an island.

  1. No Native OMF Import or Export.
  2. No Native EDL Import or Export.
  3. No Native AAF Import or Export.
  4. No Native XML Import or Export.

This means that you start in FCP X eco-system and end in FCP X eco-system. This is not a professional workflow. I believe a professional workflow (let alone application) requires some flexibility to play with others. Professional post people need to work with other apps. Rarely, if ever, do any Professionals begin and end inside the same application. And I fault Apple for believing that a v1.0 product would be up to the task of being an all in one. Maybe someday. But not now.

I am a huge fan of Wes and of Automatic Duck. His products, by far, are the most useful out there. But I believe it’s downright dumb to have Duck as the only solution. Would a car manufacturer not build doors, and let a 3rd party do it aftermarket? FCP innovated the open philosophy with XML almost a decade ago. Where did *that* go?

This only underscores the absolutely, massively poor omission of the ability to open legacy projects.  ‘Complete Rewrite‘ or not, the loss of at least a rudimentary ability to update your projects – is a travesty.

The Log and Capture debate has raged for months, and I don’t fault Apple for omitting the rewrite of it from it’s roadmap. AJA, Blackmagic, and several others have their own proprietary capture application to plug this hole. Telestream’s Pipeline is a fantastic alternative, as is the AJA Ki Pro family or the Cinedeck. On the flip side, a great feature I tout about Avid Media Composer is that there is one interface for every capture. Now that’s easy. I don’t fault Apple, but it does make this guys job difficult. Tape isn’t dead, but it’s dying. This same philosophy can be said for disc, so I understand DVD Studio Pro being deep six’d.

The key to any edit bay is the viewable output. Whether it be for color timing (not correction, you youngin’s) or simply to pacify the director and producer talking on their cell phones behind you, we need to see it. As of day 1 – only AJA has a solution. I love AJA; I’ve been a product champion for years. That being said, the Kona “extended desktop as a second monitor” is a shoehorn at best. It is virtually useless in a critical or output environment. This – even if everything else I’ve mentioned is rectified – is a professional deal killer. You simply cannot accurately color grade on a computer monitor, and just pushing a computer image to a video monitor doesn’t do it. Period. I anticipate Thunderbolt remedying this. Holy Grail, even.

Multicam? Yeah, I know. Yet another feature that only the “few” use. But those that do – it’s their livelihood. I do, however, understand it not being in 1.0. I imagine it’s in the pipeline.

I suppose this is where I can really let loose.  As a techie, and as a loyal servant of a VAR (Value Added Reseller), my rear is quite chaffed. As Apple VARs – ones that advertise your product, ones that learn to support your product, ones that defend your product when it’s on the client’s chopping block, it appears that we are no longer worth your respect and attention. With no way to re-sell and no way to easily deploy, we are being phased out. An App Store purchase is easier than a VAR, isn’t it Apple? While it may not make a dent in your bottom line, it’s a solid backhand to those of us who pumped, sold, and built facilities based off  FCP 1. FCP2. FC3. FCP 3.04. We helped make Final Cut Pro what it is. We didn’t even get put in a retirement home, we went straight to the morgue.

Quantity does not equate Quality, but VARs can bridge this gap.

Speaking of VARs, this may be of interest. See if you can follow my logic here:

Currently, FCP X runs on 10.6.7.

FCP 7 runs on 10.6.7.

FCP 7 has been EOL’d (end of life’d).

10.7 is right around the corner, as are the new gen of Mac Pros.

Will FCP 7 be updated to run on 10.7? If not…

Will the new Macs be back-revable to have 10.6 installed on them? If not…

You’re in a world of hurt. You can’t upgrade your CPU (that’s a chunk of change you’d lose, Apple) or you’ll lose FCP 7. If you stay on a slower CPU, you don’t get the features that are most certainly coming in FCP X.1, X.2, etc. Is a user really going to keep 2 Macs for daily work?  Reminds me of the whole Avid Meridien debacle back in 10.2 with the G4s.

Betcha didn’t think of that one. VARs, my dear reader. Tip of the iceberg.

You’ll notice I didn’t focus on the editing features much.  I actually dig the fact that Apple is moving forward.  We need to learn, we need to evolve.  Remember the now famous Henry Ford quote, popularized by Steve Jobs: ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.'” If Apple has developed something easier, faster, and more efficient, I’m all for trying it.  Really.  It’s the elimination of mission critical components with no viable or comparable alternative that doesn’t sit well with me.

While at the Vegas Supermeet, I was lucky enough to sit with some pretty level headed folk.  Every round of applause was peppered with “but what about…” or “well, how would you…” Most post people are good like that.  They look before they leap.  And that’s exactly what anyone making enough money to keep beers in front of the friends should do: look before you leap.

UPDATE – 6/23: Apple has addressed some issues on the “pro” aspect of FCP X.  I post it here as yet another angle with which digest: http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/professional-video-editors-weigh-in-on-final-cut-pro-x/

UPDATE – 6/27: These are just funny.

New Coke and FCP X

FCP X runs on just about everything...

18 Comments

  1. even if it is a V1 release, at this stage of the NLE game, 21 years after the introduction of Avid, lacking what it lacks is unacceptable. If it is for dads cutting together their kids softball video then they shouldn’t be calling it final cut “PRO”. someone commented on the Apple discussion page that FCPX is New Coke all over again. seems apropos!

  2. Andy:

    As far as I can tell AJA happened to release a new feature (scan conversion) for their Kona cards, but that doesn’t make them the only ones ready for that possibility (sticking the new Viewer window on external display). BMD have supported the extended desktop since forever, as has Matrox with their original MXO … I’m pretty sure that the newer Matrox MXO2 has no solution for this at present tho.

    With regards to FCP 7 and Lion 10.7 … I am running it just fine on the Lion DP4 release, but thats a system I upgraded from 10.6 with FCP 7 already installed. Whilst possible then, it would seem unlikely that Lion will not officially support FCP 7 installs.

    Cheers
    Andy

    • I used the BMD “Extend Desktop” thing to get a passable full-screen preview output from Media Composer on a Mac Pro in about 2008 – no reason it wouldn’t work in FCP X that I can see, from what I know of what AJA is doing.

  3. Paul Shields:

    Putting aside the Apple enforced media management paradigm shift, the 1 sequence per project snafu and questions of getting material out of the system by meta or direct output means….

    As an editor this thing’s an absolute dog.

    Mark an in and/or out on a clip. Click on another clip. Go back to your first – the marks have gone. Mark an in on your sequence? You can’t, you can mark a clip. Carefully resize a graphical element on top of a background. Now copy the same elements to the next clip. You can’t (as far as I can tell). Paste Attributes was one of the few things Classic FCP had over its competitors and they’ve junked it. I’m fully prepared to reboot how I edit (Apple have forced editors to do that before with Classic FCP) but the ethos of this product is that it’s quick and sloppy. Throw clips at a sequence based on their overall content. Maybe refine the odd cut. Pump the thing out to wherever. That’s not a professional editor’s approach. That’s why this thing isn’t “Pro”. It’s iMovie Deluxe, it’s Final Cut Xpress.

    It’s a toy.

  4. Marcus Moore:

    Thanks for the post, Michael, it’s certainly one of the more even handed responses I’ve seen- and I think the reaction has been pretty sad actually.

    I think the critical mistake that people are making in is that they’re seeing this as an either/or scenario, when what we’re dealing with is if/then. Despite the name, this is a transition to a platform, and like any of the transitions that editors who’ve been in this business for any amount of time can attest, it didn’t happen all at once. FILM–>TAPE–>NLE was a slow and frustrating process, with a lot of uncertainty and competing technologies that left many high and dry.

    The last 5-7 years have been relatively stable, all things considered. The same big players. The same UI conventions. Things have gotten faster, better, but not a lot has changed.

    From my perspective, if Apple had simply taken their existing platform and moved it to 64bit, it would be the expected, incremental move forward. The fact that they have take the effort to stretch out and explore new paradigms new ways of working, says more to me about Apple’s commitment to the Pro market than the omission of features, as important to a segment of the pro market as they may be.

    And I think that’s the really important fallacy to burn to the ground here. These ARE NOT critical features for every pro. To say that you’re either outputting to a Da Vinci for grading or ProTools for audio; or your a kid cutting his skateboard videos is disingenuous to a majority of the market. I work with large companies, and for 6 years [having been in the business for 22] have run my own business and made not an inconsequential amount of money. And there’s only one feature that’s missing here that I technically care about, and that’s external monitoring. Am I not Pro? Professionals are anyone who make a majority of their living off of what they do, and anything else is an artificial barrier set up by those who’d like to set themselves apart for purely technical reasons.

    I firmly believe based on what Larry Jordan and Philip Hodgetts have said that it was simply a matter of time that led to the exclusion of the features that have been listed. So let me propose 2 ideas and tell me which of the two makes more sense:

    1. Apple holds release of FCPX for another 6-12 months until all of these features can be addressed. Apple does not talk about unreleased software so the not inconsiderable discontent continues to grow. Apple finally releases the software this time next year, and large post houses would STILL have to take their time to evaluate, test, learn the new UI [while still being productive] and hold out for a couple of bug revisions before slowing coming on board.

    2. Apple releases FCPX yesterday, and a large swath of the middle market and jump right in start working with it. Finding the issues. Providing feedback to Apple. Large post houses can download the software at minimal cost and play with it in non-work scenarios. Editors can get their heads around the shift in media management and editorial UI. Then, in 6-8 months, when the bugs get worked out and these features have been implemented, the high end can start transitioning over as they see fit. OR for that matter companies can evaluate that Apple’s new platform does not meet their needs and start to plan their transition to AVID or PremierPro [yeah, right…].

    To say that FCPX is not for Pros is flat out wrong. To say that it’s not ready for ALL-Pros is absolutely correct. The first one would suppose that Pros are not the target market, which is clearly not the case. The other is born of purely technical concerns, which can be sorted out in due course.

    The surest sign of how Apple views this is that you CAN run both FCP7 and FCPX on the same system. They aren’t putting a gun to your head and telling you this is how it’s going to go! They see this as a transition from one platform to another, as has been mentioned elsewhere, like the transition from OS9 to OSX.

    • I’d just like to thank you for providing a rational response in the face of this overwhelmingly vociferous reception to FCPX. Yes, it lacks a lot, but it’s a 1.0 release of the future of a platform. It couldn’t stay 32-bit. It couldn’t stay looking like a 2005 application. Apple has laid the ground work for the next 10 years of FCP and that means some painful rebuilding work. All the features that are REALLY needed will be added in due course. No professional person would jump all their workflow over to a completely new piece of software. That would be madness. Judge FCPX in 6 months time, not 24 hours after its release!

      I too object to the elitist drivel I keep reading about this not being for the ‘pros.’ You don’t have to work on CNN to be a professional. The majority of the video industry is not making Hollywood blockbusters. It lacks what those people need at launch. That’s a fair complaint and a fair criticism, but let’s not making sweeping statements and childishly rate a great piece of software 1 star to make our point!

    • David Jahns:

      Sure – I get the whole 64 bit complete rewrite thing. But if you’re going to do that, with no backward compatibility, don’t market as the new FCP – call it Phenomenon or whatever, and be honest about it.

      If Apple had said, “We have something new and exciting here, and we realize it won’t for everybody just yet, but here’s our roadmap for feature improvements, and here’s what we consider dead to the 21st century, and here’s our Public Beta for $99 or whatever, and we’ll still support FCP 7 during this transition…” – then it would be all hunky dory.

      But that’s not what got at all. We get our legs cut out from under us, with not even a word about what to expect in the future. I do realize that’s Apple’s way for their consumer products, but that’s why many “pros” who have built facilities and careers around the tools & hardware are upset.

      • Marcus Moore:

        Apple’s problem is clearly communication. They unfortunately carry the same stone wall approach that they use [and I understand] on their consumer products, and apply that to their Pro products like FCP, Aperture and Logic. Which does nothing but hurt them. This was ALWAYS going to be a difficult transition, EVEN IF there had been feature parity.

        I don’t even think they have to be as open as Adobe. It’s not like they have to tell us everything new and amazing that will be in next year’s version of the product, but in this case an open roadmap would certainly sooth some nerves and allow people to take a breath and evaluate FCPX for what it has and does well [and there ARE several distinct advantages to the new UI and workflow], rather than the features that are missing but could all be sorted out in as little as 6 months.

    • Sid:

      This is one of the most level headed comments I’ve read on this topic. I think some of the scathing reviews have been a little disingenuous perhaps out of panic and uncertainty. I for one am up to the challenge of taking the time out to learn this program. In the mean time I will hang on to my current version of FCP.

      Thank you very much for addressing all this I’m a “pro” tripe. Not all of us will get to work in Hollywood but it doesn’t mean we don’t know our work or are working on projects that have no value. If we followed to that kind of thinking we would be without work as the “film” industry, as big as it is, is very small. I for one am excited about the future and the evolution of the editing workflow that will allow those of us without access to larger and big budgeted projects to have tools that will allow us to do the best possible work. So yes final cut x has kinks to iron out; but it is a new baby that will hopefully grow into a slick son if all the criticism doesn’t snuff it out.

  5. Ed Marx:

    Right on a number of points.

    1 – But I’m dying to know precisely what film(s) out there right now would benefit from FCPX.
    2 – I”ve beta-tested Avid software, but it came with considerations from the them. Apple seems to want us to work out all the missing features on behalf of future released fixes. in the meantime, I’ve got producers and directors who may lack understanding of their position as post production test subjects.
    3 – You work for the largest reseller of post products in this brave land of ours. How about going to bat for the clients instead of the supplier? I got to hear nothing but platelite shifting kudos from people who got advanced previews. So the NDA prevented you from acting like a knowledgeable, complex, and trusted purveyor of the craft we have come to know over the years.
    4 – When I present a rough cut to my clients, I make completely sure that I preface it with the kinds of unfinished elements (glitches?) they may experience in order to temper their response to the reality of the viewing. What I don’t do is take over the largest convention of digital communicators by prohibiting the competition from doing their understandable mass market show in order to hype an unfinished product.
    5 – On a personal note, I consider you a good friend and a fellow Chicagoan. Progeny of the windy city don’t take crap lying down. Remember your roots, please.

    • Ed, I love you. I know you’re all worked up. Our boys playing sub .500 ball ain’t helping.

      I have no NDA, nor was given any advanced copy. I bought my ticket for the Vegas Supermeet, I did my research from the info gleamed at the Sneak Preview, and I downloaded it Monday AM like everyone else… and had to pay full retail :)

      No major films or TV shows using the traditional multi-step process would benefit from FCPX. In “our” world Ed, we have color, finishing, audio, not to mention video output as a necessity. FCP X lacks the ability to do it to the level we need with it’s own tools, and prevents us from sending it to another application that can. So in our world – the “exception” – there is no projects that could benefit from it as the center of it’s workflow. The “rule” – 95%(everyone else) – doesn’t need that flexibility.

      You’ve got FCP7. And Avid – so you have the tools you need until this 1.0 release has some claws. No larger production is an island – and we all have many tools in our toolbox. I’d say use FCPX in that side room where you used to make DVD and labels and hack around on it when you have time.

      I’d like to think this blog post IS for my roots. The professional multi disciplined workflows in post. I could wax philosophical on the wonderful Apple editing paradigm shift and how great it is for new editors. But I’m not – I’m pointing out the things that multi-step workflows – requiring multi disciplined professionals – need. Not what the other 95% of the world needs. This is for YOU. How is this not for my “roots”?

      The VAR thing, well, that’s more for my livelihood and the 10’s of thousands who are in the same boat. If we’re employed we can better serve the editors who make pretty pictures. The web is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of editors “rating” FCP X. I’d just be another voice in the chorus. VARs? Who stands up for us?

      I’m not lying down. I’m alerting my “brethren” what’s reality and how to prepare for it. No suckling from the Apple teet here.

      BTW, we used your left over Sterno for Fondue the other night. No Joke. Kate says Hi :)

  6. Corollary to VAR problem: All of my systems are “off the net.” We usually purchase though a VAR who makes sure everything is right and tight before moving to upgrades. I guess we will not be updating.

  7. KIG:

    Here is one other aspect about FCP-X that I think is the larger issue for our ‘Pro’ community. Apple has stopped shipping FCP7 (and Final Cut Server, but perhaps that was a mercy killing). And it has been done in such an ‘Apple’ way. No warning. No overlap between FCP-X and FCP7 to still purchase copies if you need them! I think that Apple really has snubbed the FCP community with how they have handled this. Will FCP7 even run on OSX Lion? Again no word.

    Now I work for a VAR just as you do. I’ve had to go to my clients tell them that I’m sorry, but the order that I’ve been working with on can’t be with Final Cut now. First I can’t sell them in the new Final Cut Pro X anyways, but beyond that, the 3rd party hardware won’t work, and for most of them it would be going into a facility that has FCP7 and needs it to be compatible with the systems they have.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think that Apple will sell a ton of FCP-X. For your low-end and home user it is a great product. And those kind of users are shooting video with their iPhone/cell phone, digital camera and DV/HDV/AVC cameras. But this product isn’t ready at all for the Pro user, and I’ve heard the ‘coming’ in a few months. But if that was the case, then why didn’t the wait a few more months and ship the ‘real’ finished version. FCP7 certainly wasn’t losing sales to some other product. From that fact, I think we really need to look at FCP-X as what it is, a CONSUMER editing tool, an high-end consumer editing tool no doubt, but consumer none the less..

    Maybe I’m just a bit bitter. Heck I like Avid more anyways. I do want to leave with one final though.

    For a few years the rumor has been there. ‘Apple is going to kill FCP. Apple is going to make FCP low end.’, you’ve heard the rumors. We all dismissed them, said that Apple won’t do anything to damage its editing tool that is set to take over the world. Don’t they say that every rumor has a bit of truth to them? I guess they do…

    • Aloha KIG-

      Looks as if we are on the same page :Re: Lion, FCP 7…and, of course, the impending Mac Pros which may not be back revable. We’ve dealt with this before, but never on the scale this could potentially be. I feel it may be like Avid Merediens: Couldn’t move cards to a new CPU, couldn’t upgrade the OS, so you were stuck in 10.2.x – for-ev-ver. Remember what a PITA that was?

      You may want to check this out. Why Apple talked to a novice who doesn’t quite grasp a multi-disciplined post workflow is beyond me… http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/professional-video-editors-weigh-in-on-final-cut-pro-x/

      Always good to hear from you, KIG. Sorry I missed you in Canada, eh!

      ~Michael

      • Thanks Michael,

        I hope everyone really gets what you are saying. I am responsible for a workgroup in a large professional video “services” group here in Burbank. We have in fact as you point out, devoted religiously to Apple for our infrastructure. Let’s not forget the X-Serve, an elegant piece of hardware, intended for the Pro market – gone as of recent. Let’s also look at Quick Time Pro recent upgrades, as we (my company) deliver media key encrypted content (for security reasons) to many of our clients, the word I get is that Apple will no longer support media keys in recent QT upgrades – gone. Final Cut non -Pro X – STRIPPED of most functions absolutely needed in the pro market. Lets face it folks, Apple is giving a large FU to the pro market. Is it not obvious to the loyal Apple fans ? I WAS one too. It’s like a bad marriage, no one wants to admit that it’s really over when they spent so many good years together, but I’m sorry, the marriage is OVER and all of us in the professional end of video must move away from the Apple home because we will get burned harder each time we go back. The Apple hamburger makers had a gourmet restaurant and they also sold i-food and i-drinks. The spread sheet oriented, narrow minded bean counters at Apple probably said “screw the gourmet restaurant because their sales dwarf the i- market” so gimme more i-fries and i -drinks and dilute that Filet Mignon with a little horse meat.

        Thats my $.02 cents worth and welcome to spread sheet, corporate management.

        Cheers,

        – Alan

  8. Anthony Kozadinos:

    Michael (and the rest),

    Thanks for being a sound voice without resorting to shouting and inappropriately biased observations.

    I, too, work for a VAR. Our clients rely on us for anything from a little consultation and a box-sale to a complete facility support provider. I routinely do things like wipe drives and reinstall software. I asked my Apple rep how exactly to install Lion on a system currently running Leopard (for compatibility reasons with very delicate 3rd party products). Mind you, I have no intention of doing so, but his response, not to his discredit, was “I don’t know. I guess you need to buy Snow Leopard while you still can and then upgrade to Lion via the App Store.”

    Let’s never mind that for a moment. VARs aren’t supposed to sell to EDU clients, either. Okay. How about schools that are building video production departments and need to purchase using grant money, and do so on one large bid that vendors compete for? The district cannot make individual app store purchases to outfit a system at a time, and Apple can’t be a sole source for all the other little things on that bid. I am told that Apple has enterprise solutions for schools and very large corporate customers. They just don’t get the idea that VARs sometimes bring the solution to the table, even if they can’t sell those pieces.

    Let’s never mind that for a moment. VARs, like Michael and myself, are the ones that facility owners come to for unbiased, sage advice. We hold the keys to the car that is the pro market. If we start selling the Avid or Adobe solution because the Apple one doesn’t make sense, then we also have no compelling reason to stay with the Mac hardware/OS solution. For those that think Premiere will not have a strong position in the pro market, think again. It’s a lot closer to FCP7 than FCPX is! I would rather stick with FCP7 than switch, but I can buy Premiere, and cannot buy FCP7. In short, VARs will find a way to make money, and they were not selling FCP7 because it made them the most money (far from it). I would happily make my $20 margin of FCPX if it made sense for my customers, but it does not. Yet. Alas, it may never. Apple might not see this side of the argument at all. Worse, they might indeed, and just not care too much.

    I have been very level-headed, talking down many of my clients from the ledge. I also have had no choice but to sell about four Avid or Adobe solutions in the last few weeks because I cannot, in good conscience, sell an Apple one. Never mind the idea that the FCPX software would be a transaction independent of the VAR. I can deal with that, as can a select few of my clients. I just is not a fit for professionals. Yet. Maybe.

    Anyone who is wondering if they fit in that category, here is your litmus test: If you are angry that FCPX only costs $300 – you’re in. If you are excited that it’s only $300, you are a pro-sumer. Professionals make a LOT of money editing video and audio for high-dollar clients because the material and its deadlines are mission-critical. Said clients come to a professional because investments have been made to make sure excuses are not an option and deadlines are not missed (never mind the creative aspect for a moment). Nearly every facility of this type either has a handful of highly-skilled, intelligent technicians driving the ship, or a very close relationship with one or more VARs.

    Thanks again, Michael. I wish you the best.

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